Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Pill, Covert Abortions, and Church Silence

If you believe that life begins at conception, the Birth Control Pill causes abortion.

If you don't believe life exists at conception, I can only ask that you consider when God puts new life into a woman's body, at what point Christ became incarnate in Mary's body, and how it is that a woman creates a new life unilaterally (since it happens long after a man has been involved).

The Pill manufacturers state that the pill creates a "hostile endometrium" - Planned Parenthood now sheepishly notes, "The hormones in combination and progestin-only pills also thin the lining of the uterus. In theory, this could prevent pregnancy by interfering with implantation of a fertilized egg. But there is no scientific evidence that this occurs" (

Unless Planned Parenthood is the sole arbiter of what constitutes "scientific evidence," the following would seem to suggest they are wrong:

From the manufacturers of Ortho Tri-Cyclen (and buried by medical lingo in their eight pages of prescription information): "Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation)."

Consider this scientific evidence (I'll only quote some of its conclusion here):

"Let’s look at the math. Women on BCPs have 28-day cycles and thus have 13 cycles/year (365/28 = 13.3). According to Facts in Brief from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (3/13/98), some 10,410,000 U.S. women are current pill users, a figure that constitutes 26.9% of all those using some method of contraception. This is second only to sterilization, which is used by 27.7% of contraceptors. Gambrell notes that there is a 14% breakthrough ovulation rate in females taking the 50 microgram pills (10,410,000 x .14 = 1,457,400 ovulations each cycle). 1,457,400 x 13 cycles/year = 18,946,200 possible exposures to pregnancy each year. The accepted rate for “pill pregnancies” is 3-5 per 100 women years. Noting the fact that there is 60+% rate of spontaneous tubal abortions with an unfavorable implantation site in ectopic pregnancies, it is
reasonable for us to calculate that the rate of conceptions lost to early physician-induced (BCP) abortion of intrauterine pregnancies in pill users is twice that of term “pill pregnancies,” given once again, an endometrium that is “less vascular, less glandular, thinner” than normal.
Thus the possible abortion-rate induced by BCPs is 18,946,200 x .06 = 1,136,772 or 18,946,200 x .1 = 1,894,620/ year. We are convinced that the reasoning with regard to the math on this issue is sound."

The Birth Control Pill causes abortions, and countless Christian couples use it. I beg General Assemblies, General Synods, High Councils, et cetera, of Christian Churches to call out to their clergy and marrying couples with this information. Pastors do not know, when they give pre-marital counseling, that they are complicit in approving these chemical abortions.

Christian couples deserve to be informed before giving their consent to ingest these destructive chemicals in their bodies.

To posit otherwise is to posit that the pharmaceuticals are in a better position to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of our contraceptive practices than our theologians and fellow brothers and sisters are.

America's churches are painfully silent, congregations and clergy are ignorant, and the chemical plague continues. Are we too ashamed? I am ashamed of abortions I may have unwittingly caused in my marriage, but find that - after repentance - speaking up is an excellent way to seek healing.

Pauline Privilege (Liberal Democracy in the Church, and Biblical Hermeneutics)

A church governance that is a "liberal democracy" (look it up, I mean nothing about liberalism or "liberal" churches per se) will by its nature gravitate toward a permissive interpretation of scripture when faced with hard personal situations.

Consider the "Pauline Privilege" that comes from 1 Corinthians 7:15:
"But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. "

The argument goes something like this: If a man (for example) is abusing his wife, or addicted to pornography, and he refuses church discipline, then the church can find him an unbeliever and (at least emotionally,) a deserter. Then under the "Pauline Privilege" the wife is entitled to divorce and later remarry another.

It helps, I think, to read this string of Paul's writing in context (read 1 Cor 7:10-23).

Paul gives the commandment as initially from the Lord. We know what Christ teaches in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18. Putting away your wife (or husband) and marrying another is adultery. Elsewhere Christ tells us that in marriage the two become one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man separate (see Matthew 19).

Christ says explicitly that we are not to divorce (arguably with an exception for 'fornication'), and to do is adultery. Paul says the newcomer to the church is not "under bondage" if their unbelieving spouse deserts them.

I give weight to the specific rule over the general, and the unambiguous over the ambiguous ('lex specialis derogat lex generalis' or something like that). So when Christ says 'do not divorce', it seems that anyone claiming Paul's Privilege bears the burden to justify a derogation from that rule.

Furthermore, Paul's message seems clearly to be to newcomers of the new church. 'Come as you are' Paul says, 'do not become circumcised, do not divorce your wife just because she doesn't believe with you!' This was a big question in the early church, and he was addressing it head on.

American churches often seem to pull out a string of Biblical text and state it as a rule, out of context, binding (or permitting) believers today. Such a reading is unfair to scripture; it misconstrues the Bible as some kind of Holy Ouija Board. We must guard carefully the underlying principle in Paul's sacred message to the Church at Corinth: the Lord has said DO NOT DIVORCE, and if you do, STAY UNMARRIED, or RECONCILE. If you're new to the church, do not depart from your unbelieving spouse. If they depart, let them go, for we are to live in peace.

He does NOT qualify Christ's message in the Gospels about divorce: remain unmarried or RECONCILE.

The 'remain unmarried or reconcile' rule seems true to the allegory between Christ/Church and Husband/Wife. When the church (or individual Christian) sins, Christ does not divorce us and take up a new bride. He always waits faithfully for our repentance and reconciliation. To me this is more than a nice thought, it's the moral (natural) rule and state of things, binding on husbands and wives. By remaining faithful and ever open to reconciliation, it seems the Grace of Christ is fully lived out. Such an interpretation makes for hard teaching!!!

No one wants to tell someone in a bad marriage, 'sorry, your shot at happiness just vanished.' This is why so many voters in America are uncomfortable saying (without qualification), "if you get pregnant, abortion should never be an option." People get sympathetic - 'gee, if I (or my daughter) were 17 and had my whole life ahead of me, I might want that option'. Same for the church and divorce, 'gee, if my husband weren't faithful, and I've got these kids to raise, who's to tell me I can't try again to get a good husband?!' In a liberal democracy (such as the Presbyterian polity) leaders will tend to err on the side of a permissive interpretation of their Constitution (our Bible) when times get tough. We make horrible arbiters of right and wrong when the wrong seems so right (or right seems so hard).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

China and Human Rights

NPR has uncovered that just this month the "People's Republic of China" has preformed forced abortions on mothers in support of its "one-child policy". Abortions were also performed on otherwise childless mothers because the mothers were unwed.

Please read this Morning Edition article!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Unbiased Advocates

The 'Passion' of the ABA:
I will not write about this week's landmark abortion decision reached by the U.S. Supreme Court, as it has been and will continue to be exhaustively covered by others more competent and knowledgeable than I am. Gonzales v. Carhart, No. 05-380.

I WILL note the view taken by the American Bar Association's "E-report". If you have the patience to read through even a third of it, I would like to hear an argument that it is not patently biased in favor of the existing Roe/Abortion-industry regime.

As evidence, I note that it mentions two "anti-abortion" groups, that term being juxtaposed with "abortion-rights proponents". Get it? One hates all abortion, while the other stands up for mankind's right to have one performed. To beat a dead horse, why not "fetal-life-rights groups" and "abortion-rights proponents"? Why not "anti-abortion" groups and "abortion [without the 'rights'] proponents"?

Why is this troubling? It would be foolish of me to get upset that a particular writing seems displeased with the Court's recent ruling. But the American Bar Association (of which I am a member) represents our nation's advocates. And advocates are by training and vocation to be impartial. Our nation's advocates' collective organization, representing lawyers who personally fall on both sides of this issue, lacks the ability to handle such a debate without prejudice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Creeds and Catholicity

Textualism or Evolving Standard?
In reciting the Apostles' Creed last night with my son, I stumbled over the old "holy catholic church" line. I learned at a young age what was meant in the Reformed circle by this line: the true invisible church in all places throughout time.

The Apostles' Creed's origin is variously dated, but certainly no later than the 4th Century. See Christian Reformed Church Beliefs: The Apostles' Creed.; Catholic Encyclopedia: Apostles' Creed. The Orthodox "Symbol of Faith" is the Nicene(-Constantinopolitan) Creed, formally drawn up (though no doubt of earlier roots) at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325AD. The Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople added the second portion of the creed, including the "one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" phrase. The Orthodox Faith: Nicene Creed.

Without delving too much into a history lesson, my inquiry is this: when ancient believers recited the "one church" line of either creed, what did they mean by it? Did they have some notion in the second or fourth century of an invisible church consisting of all 'true' believers throughout time? Or did the one 'Apostolic' church mean to them something more visible, something more concrete in which they had placed their faith (and under whose authority they were submitted)?

It is this interpretive trap that caught my attention. Christians state the creed together because it is unifying horizontally (with other Christians in spite of differences) and vertically (with the Church down through the ages). Is it proper to use its words in a way different from their "original intent"? If ancient Christians, our ancestors, meant VISIBLE Church, can we now claim the phrase for ourselves, but with an evolved (different) meaning?

The Reformers saw a church that had become so apostate as to be no church at all. Perhaps the Protestant circle should use a different phrase, or drop the phrase altogether. To claim that the phrase only came to its proper meaning (i.e., invisible vice visible church) since the Reformation would seem contrived. To ignore the meaning that ancient believers gave it seems unfair.

Credal language ought not to evolve, and should only be changed where competent authority has determined that the previous language was in error or needs to be clarified to address some heresy. Protestant authority rests solely in Scripture (sola scriptura). When Protestants become convinced that Scripture calls for a change to an ancient creed, it should be changed and not 'evolved', as happened with the 'one holy Church' lines in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

I hope that the ancient creeds can be a source of ecumenicity for Christ's Church in the future.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anointing with Oil

Anointing of the sick was referenced this morning at church. I wonder, what ecumenicity can I find in the subject?

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders [(presbuterous)] of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." James 5:14-15, ESV.

The Catholic view (as I am able to understand it, and briefly stated).
The "Anointing of the Sick" is one of the seven sacraments. It has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1527. Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give it, using oil that has been properly blessed. Catechism, 1530. The special grace of the sacrament has as its effects: (and I paraphrase) uniting the sick person to the passion of Christ; strength, peace and courage to endure sufferings; the forgiveness of sins, if unable to obtain it through Penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; and preparation for passing over to eternal life. Catechism, 1532.

The Orthodox view (as I am able to understand it, and briefly stated).
The sacrament of "Anointing of the Sick" reminds us that when we are in pain, Christ is present with us through the presence of his Church. Oil is used as a sign of God's presence, strength and forgiveness. After prayers devoted to healing, the priest anoints the sick body with Holy Oil.

It is not limited to those near death, but to anyone who is sick in mind, body or spirit. The Church celebrates this sacrament for all of its members during Holy Week. Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, The Sacraments,

Some Protestant views (as I am able to understand it, and briefly stated).
None but the Anglicans, to my knowledge, would account the James 5 anointing of oil among the "sacraments". Much of the google-able discussion of this passage analyzes the meaning of "elder", and not the meaning of the anointing with oil.

Presbyterian (PCA):
Whiles miracles described in scripture which validate a speaker's revelation have ceased along with revelation (since the closing of the NT Canon), "[t]he power of God in response to believing prayer to work wonders and to heal the sick cannot be limited (citing James 5:14)." A Pastoral Letter to the churches and members of the PCA, Second General Assembly of the PCA (1975),

Lutheran (LCMS):
"The LCMS does not have an "official position" on anointing with oil in connection for prayers for healing." Some suggest it was medicinal, and like today's medical efforts, should be accompanied by prayer. Others believe it was a symbol of the healing power of the Holy Spirit. As nothing indicates in James that anointing was to be a "means of grace" like the sacraments it is essentially a matter for Christian liberty and conscience. Anointing/Prayers for the Sick, LCMS Website.

It was the prayer that was the healing instrument in James 5:14-15. Healing and Faith.

If anyone has something more concrete from the Southern Baptists or other Baptist denominations, please let me know, but it seems like they take a normative protestant approach: the passage may be about old medicine, it affirms the power of prayer, it is interesting because it references the office of "elder" and it may be dubious to hold that the oil brought about some miracle.

"In the Assemblies of God we believe neither the laying on of hands nor anointing with oil is indispensable for healing, for often in Scripture healing takes place without either. But at times the touch of a praying person and the application of oil are an encouragement to faith, and such a practice is enjoined by Scripture." Laying on of Hands and Anointing the Sick with Oil. Cf. 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, Number 12 (noting that this healing is one of the four "cardinal" doctrines of the AG).

Interestingly, the Mormons have an oil anointing practice as well. But I don't have time to think about that.

What is a sacrament?
From Latin, Sacare, meaning "to consecrate".

Catholic - Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n.4, ex S. Aug. "De Catechizandis rudibus").

Episcopal - The Book of Common Prayer (p. 857) defines sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”

Reformed -
The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, viz., that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross. Heidelberg Catechism, Question 66.

I welcome input on how I can change this post to better characterize any of these groups' teachings, or can add the teachings of any other group of Christians that I omitted (please give me some references/citations though).

How can we be united in the Faith on this matter? Can we be "one church" when we read James 5:14-15? cf. John 17:11b, "Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one."